Because they were brothers, David and Daniel had always been competitive. Though David was older, Daniel was always able to beat David in everything they did. David’s only saving grace was that he was tall and his brother was not. Despite this, Daniel excelled in every sport, David was only mediocre. Daniel had better looks, David only looked average. Daniel’s children even turned out better behaved, had prettier eyes according to the family, and seemed to be developing at a faster rate.
“Just let me give it a try,” Daniel said, sitting cross-legged across from his brother and resting his elbows against his knees.
The sound of David rubbing the two sticks together was the only sound, and the family members looked on. David’s wife had gained about 150 pounds of fat and attitude after their second child, and she gave a loud exhale. David gritted his teeth and kept rubbing the sticks together.
“Dude, did you hear—”
“It’s fine, and I think I see a little smoke,” David said, cutting off his brother with words dripping with frustration.
Another 10 minutes elapsed as David continued trying, but nary was an ember created. The scratch of him rubbing the sticks together started to grind against everyone’s nerves and patience. The sun began to set.
“If we don’t have a fire going soon, this will be a long, cold night,” Jasmine, David’s wife, said.
Daniel and his wife Toni whispered together for a few moments before Daniel gave a silent stretch. He stood and looked at his brother for a moment before clearing his throat and swallowing hard.
“I’ll be back. Give me a buzz if you get any fire,” he said, but David ignored him and kept rubbing.
A breeze blew through the surrounding forest and branches creaked and groaned. Colorful leaves from the autumn shedding rolled around the group, and a distant owl started to hoot.
Daniel hopped in his car, and the sound of the door shutting echoed around the silent campsite. He pulled off onto the dirt road, leaving a fading cloud of brown in his wake. Minutes later the kids came running over, guided by the oldest of the lot, Jaiden.
Jaiden was Jasmine’s son from a fling before David came along, and though Jaiden was mischievous, he was good at taking care of the younger ones.
“We’re cold,” Jordan, David’s daughter said, strutting over and standing next to her father with her little potbelly pressed against his leg.
“I know, Baby,” David said, taking a break and shaking out his hands and arms, exhausted. “I’ll have a fire soon.”
“Not good to lie to your children,” Jasmine said, rolling off of her bottom side and pushing up from the ground with a great deal of effort. “They’ll have graduated from medical school before you accomplish that.”
David paused and debated responding, but instead picked back up with his attempts. Grayson, Daniel’s only child, waddled over to Toni and held up his arms. Toni accepted the plea to be picked up, and Grayson giggled when she kissed his neck, making loud smacking sounds. Toni stayed on the ground but cradled the toddler in her arms.
“When can we make s’mores?” Jaiden said, sitting down next to David.
“Should be ready when you’re walking down the aisle at graduation,” Jasmine said, picking up Jordan and holding her with one arm, supporting the bulk of the child on her hip.
David opened his mouth to respond, but Toni cut him off, so an argument didn’t break out in front of the young ones.
“I’m sure s’more will be just as delicious if nothing is melted,” Toni said, rocking Grayson.
Everyone was wearing a puffy coat, and the scratchy sound of their movement joined the scratchy sound of the sticks rubbing together. David mumbled to himself for a while but continued to rub the sticks together.
A little while later the rumble of Daniel’s Honda CR-V returning pulled everyone’s attention. It was almost completely dark now, and Daniel had turned on his high beams, blinding anyone foolish enough to look.
“Did you have to blare your lights right in our eyes,” David said as Daniel rejoined the group. “Where did you even go?”
“I appreciate all the effort you’re putting out for that fire, man,” Daniel started, the plastic bag in his hand rustling in the breeze. “But I’m all about convenience.”
David paused and eyed his brother as he crouched down to the assembled firewood and kindling. Daniel took a candle lighter out of the bag. He scooped up one of the dried leaves and pulled the trigger a couple of times until a flame waivered at the tip. The wind blew it out, but he pulled the trigger again and was able to get the fire started on the leaf. He placed it with the other kindling beneath the teepee of wood, and it took hold. It crackled and flared up as a breeze whistled through the trees around them.
“At least someone had the brains to get things going the right way,” Jasmine said, setting Jordan down close to the fire.
“Okay, okay, let’s all remain calm,” Toni said, holding up her hands with a grin.
David lowered his eyebrows and glared at Daniel. Daniel ignored his brother and grabbed the bag of s’mores supplies that was sitting next to Jasmine. Jordan and Jaiden ran to him, giggling and exclaiming their delight as they received their items. Grayson fought against Toni, trying to get free and examine the fire, but Toni kept a firm grip on him.
Picking up the two sticks he was using for his fire-creation attempts, he examined the flat one. It had a slight indentation from where he had been rubbing. He chucked the two a few seconds later and sighed.
As his children grabbed sticks to hold the marshmallows over the fire, David stood up and stormed off to his car. He hopped inside, keyed it to life and blared the music on the radio.